Feeds

Boffins pioneer electron spin data storage

Taking spintronics for a spin

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration

Ohio State University boffins have built a device that stores data based on electron spin which uses less energy and is cooler than existing DRAM.

Electrons can be forced to orient their magnetisation or spin in parallel (on) or anti-parallel (off) alignment by using an external magnetic field. The alignment, called spin up or spin down, can be used to filter electrons as they pass through a gate because the spin states give the electrons different resistance levels. This can be detected such that spin up and spin down can represent binary ones and zeroes.

This field of research is known as spintronics (spin transport electronics) and involves a spin-detecting system and injecting or moving spin-polarised electrons from one material to another. The spin direction is manipulated between the injection and detection points by the external magnetic field. Passing a current through a ferromagnetic material generates a spin-polarised current of electrons. This is done in GMR (giant magneto-resistive) heads with two ferromagnetic layers separated by a spacer layer.

Grandis is working on STT-RAM (Spin-Transfer Torque RAM) which is a spintronics application. Hynix has licensed IP from Grandis. Hitachi, Renesas and Fujitsu also have STT-RAM initiatives, as does IBM with its racetrack memory idea.

The Ohio researchers, led by Arthur Epstein, director of the Institute for Magnetic and Electron Polymers at the university, produced a device, a spin-valve, combining a conventional epitaxial iron magnet film with a thin non-magnetic polymer semiconductor, vanadium tetracyanoethylene, to form a hybrid magnetic tunnel junction. This functioned as a spin injector/detector.

Spin-polarised electrons were injected from the ferromagnetic film into the organic semiconductor and a magnetic field oriented their spin up or down. They were then fed back into the conventional magnetic layer and their resistance detected. Data was read from the spin-valve depending upon whether the resistance was high or low.

Researcher Jung-Woo Yoo said: "Our main achievement is that we applied this polymer-based magnet semiconductor as a spin polarizer - meaning we could save data (spin up and down) on it using a tiny magnetic field - and a spin detector - meaning we could read the data back. Now we are closer to constructing a device from all-organic material.” That would mean getting rid of the ferromagnetic material.

Spin valves need less energy than conventional DRAM to operate and generate less heat. The researchers also say the electrons in spin memory devices are able to store two bits of information instead of one. All this could lead to much smaller devices needing much smaller batteries. Epstein, the head boffin, said: "If we had a lighter weight spintronic device which operates itself at a lower energy cost, and if we could make it on a flexible polymer display, soldiers and other users could just roll it up and carry it."

Woo thinks a commercial manufacturing process is feasible: "Any place that makes computer chips could do this. Plus, in this case, we made the device at room temperature, and the process is very eco-friendly." Ah, there's a green spin to this story. ®

Best practices for enterprise data

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft's Euro cloud darkens: US FEDS can dig into foreign servers
They're not emails, they're business records, says court
Sysadmin Day 2014: Quick, there's still time to get the beers in
He walked over the broken glass, killed the thugs... and er... reconnected the cables*
VMware builds product executables on 50 Mac Minis
And goes to the Genius Bar for support
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Microsoft says 'weird things' can happen during Windows Server 2003 migrations
Fix coming for bug that makes Kerberos croak when you run two domain controllers
Cisco says network virtualisation won't pay off everywhere
Another sign of strain in the Borg/VMware relationship?
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?